The land of “pretend” captivated me. I enjoyed role-playing in my back yard. Our picnic table became a raft on which I ventured down the river like the Moffat family in one of my first favorite books. I also loved to dance and dress-up in costumes to perform in shows.
Did you write stories when you were growing up? at school? Or at home as a hobby? As a young child, or as a teenager, or both?
I wrote my first poem in the fifth grade. To my surprise, my teacher liked my writing enough to frame it and hang it on the wall. I’ve been writing poetry ever since. In high school I kept a journal, and during my college years my poems morphed into song lyrics.
When you were a child did you ever have moments when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?No, it would be many years before I took my writing seriously. When I was young, I wrote mainly for fun and to express feelings. I do not remember ever saying that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
When you went to college, were you already pursuing a writing career?
No, I majored in Education and Human Development. My goal was to become a teacher. I began to write for children in my classroom, creating original stories, songs and plays.I founded and directed a school in northern California for twenty years, taught in the Early Childhood Departments of two colleges, and developed a Children’s Theatre. I’ve used my writing skills in all aspects of my teaching career.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from my family and by observing children and paying attention the things that affect their lives. The inspiration for my first storybook, THE STORY OF ORANGE, came as a result of seeing children being bullied by older children, who were laughing at their art work. The light in their eyes disappeared and their attitudes turned negative. Soon after, a young student gifted me her drawing of an orange-striped zebra and within days a character came alive in my imagination and took on a life of his own.
What gave you the idea for HUGS ON THE WIND?
Moving far away from my grandchildren gave me the idea for this picture book. I heard myself saying: I’m going to send you some hugs on the wind. Go outside and see if you can feel them! Watch for my smiles in the clouds and count how many I’ve sent!” These comforting images grew into the desire to help children cope with the many separations in their lives.
Have any of your books earned special recognition?
HUGS ON THE WIND was a 2006 Family Choice Award winner.
Do you do other types of writing - for example, educational, non fiction, magazine work?
Yes, I’ve written a bereavement workshop manual, some articles, and episodes for a satellite television show. I also write music. I write about what interests me, and what I feel passionate about.
Do you work on more than one book at a time?
Currently, I am writing four books. I work on one steady for a time, then I put the manuscript away to rest. In a few weeks or months, I come back and read what I have created aloud, listening with fresh ears. Then I add to it. My stories take shape and become refined slowly, changing a great deal in the process.
When you do school visits, what question do children ask you most?
Where I get my ideas and how much money I make!
What do you most want the students to get out of your school visits?
I want to inspire young writers to discover that everyone has stories inside themselves worth telling, and motivate them to plant and water their own story seeds so they will grow. My presentation is fun and interactive. As we “play” with words, I work to touch reluctant writers, so they walk away more confident. I hope my visit illuminates the fact that writing is a process and there are many ways for them to utilize their writing skills.